Denny's Daily Zinger: The Yin & Yang of Big DataMarch 3, 2014 By Denny Hatch
The traveling choir from Alma College in Michigan put on an amazing concert in our church and two of the young men stayed with us for the night. One of them came from a family in the dairy farm business for generations going back 100 years.
Dairy farming is horrific. During haying season, he arises at 2:00 a.m. to milk the cows and clean up. He works the fields until 3:00 p.m. when it's time to milk the cows again. More baling hay until 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m., then he grabs a few hours sleep and starts all over again at 2:00 a.m.
I asked him if he was going to become a dairy farmer, and he said, "No way."
What triggered this column was a story in The New York Times, about "prescriptive planting"—whereby farmers on tractors and other machinery gather data and input it into giant computers. The computers in turn tell the farmers how and what to plant and what seeds to use.
The big players, Monsanto and DuPont claim that big data can increase yields of corn and soybeans from 140 bushels per acre to 200 bushels or more.
This is the kind of data manipulation direct marketers have been working with for years.
Trouble is, farmers are scared this data will fall into the hands of commodity traders who will use it to manipulate prices and screw them.
This is the same kind of yin-yang scenario we have with data and privacy.
Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His most recent book is "Write Everything Right!" Visit him at dennyhatch.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.